Over four days, 1 trillion gallons of water fell across Harris County, enough to cover the entire county with an average of 33 inches of water. The sheer weight of the water depressed the Earth's crust: Houston sank two centimeters.
We quickly learned that our physical infrastructure was inadequate.
All the bayous in Harris County flooded. 600,000+ cars and 120,000+ homes, not counting commercial buildings and apartments, flooded. Thousands of families were displaced across the county. With the havoc caused by Harvey, there was an enormous need for assistance as soon as possible.
In response to the devastation and the need, millions of philanthropic funds flowed in. Leaders in Houston, Harris County Judge Emmett and Houston Mayor Turner set up their own relief fund, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (HHRF), which was managed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation and raised $114M. The Fund’s focus was unmet needs in vulnerable populations.
Despite the millions flowing in to help the people of our city get back on their feet, many people seeking assistance were unable to access services and falling through the cracks.
We heard from Houstonians seeking assistance after Harvey:
"I don't know where to turn to receive help. When I call service providers, I get busy signals. I’ve been told that it will be months before I receive help because of waiting lists for services. I’ve wasted time filling out lengthy applications just to be told I’m ineligible for their services."
The team wanted to uncover the unmet needs of the most vulnerable. We did so through looking at the available data and listening to people seeking services. In December 2017, we convened 40 nonprofits in different neighborhoods to listen to their perspective.
To deploy fast and more intently, we decided to focus on home repairs at first. We launched in June 2018, accepting our first application on June 1, 2018 and completing repairs on our first home by July 25, 2018.
We built HHC hand-in-hand with our partner nonprofits, taking the burden of documentation collection and verification off of their plates. And seekers of services need to go to just one place: HarveyHomeConnect.org. Once they are at HarveyHomeConnect.org, we get them through the door of home repair social services ecosystem and track them through their journey.